Every business or brand has the same objective when it comes to advertising, to reach as many potential customers as possible. But what is the best way to reach an audience in today’s landscape?
There are many advertising professionals whose sole purpose (and livelihood) is based on helping companies reach their desired audiences. These include both traditional advertising agencies and digital marketing companies, but what is the difference between the two?
Both traditional and digital agencies have the same objective: bring more attention to a client’s brand through strategic marketing efforts. A traditional advertising firm will work closely with the client, write pitches, research the targeted market, develop captivating copy and use a variety of methods to reach the selected demographic. Digital marketing agencies operate with a similar goal and process. They too meet with clients, develop plans, curate copy and content, but they use a modern set of methods to reach their audience. Both types of agencies are measured using a variety of metrics to establish ROI and success of efforts.
While the two kinds of agencies function with the same goal, they reach their audiences in somewhat different ways and with different platforms and tools. Traditional advertising agencies use methods like direct mail, billboards, product placement, coupons, print, radio and television ads to reach their targeted markets. While many of these approaches are still in use today, the truth is, more people are spending their time, and money, online. That’s where digital agencies have the upper hand, because they can reach people in a more targeted way. Using modern methods like social media, pay-per-click ads, custom YouTube videos, search engine optimization (SEO), responsive web design and app development, digital agencies have access to more people. Not only are they able to target their audience more effectively, with optimized reporting, tracking opportunities and access to a variety of online tools, they can also easily follow up and learn more about their audience.
Both types of agencies rely on their analytical and creative skills to develop effective marketing campaigns. While they are drawing on these skills, the digital marketing agencies spend a higher percentage of their time on analysis and data while the traditional ad agency is focused fairly heavily on the creative aspect of marketing. The ad agency wants to keep things fresh and new, while the digital agency is focused on what is working and improving whatever pages/campaigns are not working. If content is driving clicks and conversions there is no need to change it for the sake of making it look new. In fact, changing things that are already working is the perfect way to sabotage SEO efforts. The data associated with digital campaigns, whether they are email campaigns, Google Adwords campaigns or SEO efforts is deep. The impact of digital marketing changes in creative or content can be measured almost instantaneously. This key difference between the two agencies creates an opportunity for collaboration between digital agencies and traditional ad agencies.
The traditional agency focuses on mainstream media like television and print – these have become increasingly expensive over time and somewhat less relevant, especially for younger audiences. There are very few inexpensive options when looking at traditional advertising. Digital marketing agencies have a variety of options available to build brand awareness online or for lead generation with cost points that are far lower than traditional ad agency platforms. More importantly the speed with which these platforms can be utilized is much quicker. Many digital agencies are smaller and more nimble when it comes to implementing campaigns. The digital agencies are also far more technically savvy about what the potential marketing options that exist for driving sales and conversions online.
One limitation that has plagued traditional advertising firms is the ability to fully understand their customers. With traditional forms of advertising like direct mail and print, radio or TV ads, it’s hard to effectively understand or predict a customer’s behavior. Essentially, once the marketing attempt has been made there’s no cost-effective way to follow up, outside of making direct contact with the audience, which is nearly impossible. Now, digital marketers have access to web analytics in various forms, making it possible to track the behavior of their audiences. From understanding what kind of content they like, to what they are interacting with and even what they are buying, marketers can learn a lot. This kind of invaluable information allows future marketing to be tailored specifically to a demographic or even an individual. But it’s not only the ability to report and track data that gives digital marketers an advantage. The automation of specific parts of the process, including triggered follow-ups and funnels allows the sales process to continue on its own, long after first contact has been made.
Traditional advertising agencies have set the status quo for the best way to reach customers in the past, and for some products and audiences (namely very large companies) they are still the best way to reach large groups of customers. However, thanks to the internet and changes in consumer behavior, these methods are no longer the only choice and for some companies they are not the right choice. Digital marketing agencies have the advantage when it comes to both understanding consumer behavior and targeting customers, They also have the metrics that help to continually improve the marketing efforts.